Weight: 206 pounds
Date of birth: June 8, 2001
Hometown: Oakville, Ontario
OHL Draft: Round 2, 33rd overall, 2017 Priority Selection
NHL Central Scouting Rankings: pre-season, November: C prospect, Mid-term: 61 North America
The Kitchener Rangers selected Oakville Ontario native Michael Vukojevic in the second round, 33rd overall at the 2017 Ontario Hockey League’s Priority Selection after playing his Minor Midget AAA hockey with the Mississauga Rebels during the 2016-2017 season.
With the Rebels, Vukojevic appeared in 51 games scoring 11 goals and adding 21 assists. He would go on to add 3 assists in 5 games at the OHL Cup with the Rebels. Following his Midget season, he would make the jump to Junior A and the Georgetown Raiders for a playoff run, notching 2 assists in 5 games and winning an Ontario Junior Hockey League Championship. The Raiders would head to the CJHL Championship and the Dudley-Hewitt Cup but fell short.
Here’s what OHL Central Scouting had to say about Vukojevic:
Michael is a complete all-round defenceman that has been one of the top defencemen all year. He is an excellent skater with a nice, long stride and good lateral mobility. He is not afraid to take chances on the ice whether it’s jumping up into the rush or by making a difficult high-risk pass. He plays with a ton of confidence. Michael has good puck skills and loves to have the puck on his stick. He is dangerous in open ice or on the offensive blue line. He plays a lot and in every situation.
Vukojevic (pronounced Voo-koy-e-vich) was also a first round pick, eighth overall of the Green Bay Gamblers of the United States Hockey League in 2017. After declaring his intentions to join the Michigan Wolverines and the NCAA for the 2018-2019 season, and since the NCAA considers Major Junior players professionals and thereby ineligible there were really two choices for him: return to the Raiders or join Gamblers. I also believe that commitment to the NCAA caused him to drop in the OHL Draft. He certainly could have been a top-10 pick in the OHL.
Vukojevic chose the Gamblers thus keeping his NCAA eligibility. It was there he would begin his Junior Hockey during the 2017-2018 season and he would appear in 12 games notching 2 assists and 21 penalty minutes.
Then in January of 2018, Vukojevic had a change of heart and signed with the Rangers, opening the door for him in the OHL. He would appear in 24 games scoring once and adding 4 assists. But it was during the Rangers playoff run to the Western Conference Championship final that showed us there is more to come from him. He scored once and added 9 assists in 19 games.
This season began with a spot on Team Canada at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup. He currently has 3 goals and 22 assists in 63 games playing the role of top defenceman in Kitchener.
This is my favorite part of the NHL Draft. It’s relatively easy to make a first round selection but finding those gems in the second round and beyond is what most strive to do. And a lot of eyes should be on Vukojevic.
At 6’3” Vukojevic has very good size and with 206 pounds on that frame, he is pretty much filled in. He is as close to having an NHL body as anyone in the draft class. With his long hard strides, he creates some good speed. He has very good mobility and lateral movement. He is strong on his skates and once he plants himself is hard to move.
Defensively, Vukojevic gets all the tough assignments almost always going up against the oppositions best. He is an extremely intelligent player who understands how to defend. He is one of the toughest defenders to beat one-on-one in his age group. He is capable of angling people off and taking them out of the play, uses a very active stick to defend and reads and anticipates well. It’s hard to find a lane when he is defending. And from his age group, he’s one of the better defenders on the PK.
Offensively, Vukojevic is just scratching the surface. His smarts and ability to read the play gives him a lot of potential. He has shown an ability to join in the rush. At times there has been some hesitation, choosing to play it safe, but he has the ability to make difficult plays. The offence has become more evident in the second half of the season. 14 of his 22 assists have come in the last 28 games since January 1.
Vukojevic is a defender who can eat up a lot of minutes and play in any situation and as mentioned, can defend against the best the opposition has to offer. Statistically speaking, he matches up against Vladislav Kolyachonok, who is ranked higher on every draft publication but are similar type of defenders. Bob McKenzie had Vukojevic ranked 73rd in his mid-term rankings with Kolyachonok 39th.
If that holds true, someone could have a good pickup in Vukojevic.